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Renzi poised to take helm of Italy's centre left

Florence mayor leads polls, accuses Letta of inaction

06 December, 19:44
Renzi poised to take helm of Italy's centre left (By Christopher Livesay) (ANSA) - Rome, December 6 - Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi's chances of taking over the center-left in Italy looked as sure as ever Friday as new polls showed he has a big lead going into Sunday's primaries for the Democratic Party (PD), the country's biggest party. The charismatic 38-year-old, who has been likened to Tony Blair, got 59% in a survey conducted by the Ixé institute for State-owned TV station Rai3, compared to 21% for his main rival Gianni Cuperlo and 14% for outsider Giuseppe Civati. Renzi, who has campaigned for several years to mothball established leaders including PD ones, was seen as likely to get 56-62% in the other poll, carried out by Tecnè for an all-news channel owned by ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, TGCOM24. Cuperlo was polling within a range of 28%-34% and Civati 6%-12% for Tecnè.

Renzi is seen as likely to fight Berlusconi's centre-right alliance in the next Italian general election, widely expected at the start of 2015. The three-time premier is leading his revived Forza Italia (FI) party from outside parliament after being expelled from the Senate on a tax-fraud conviction. The PD has a smaller but more cohesive government coalition with a group of former Berlusconi loyalists who formed the breakaway New Centre Right (NCD) after refusing to bring Premier Enrico Letta down when the PD insisted on applying an anti-corruption law that mandated a six-year ban from office for the media magnate. Berlusconi, 77, will not serve jail time because of his age and is expected to do community service for the remainder of his original four-year sentence, cut to one because of an amnesty. Renzi has said he will back the PD-NCD fully if it moves swiftly to enact much-needed reforms, hinting that he might try to bring the government down if it does not do so.

On Friday he called out Letta for alleged inaction. "The Letta government has appeared strong on the international level, which has struck me. But I'm disappointed that it's delaying things. Some things need to be taken care of immediately," said Renzi. The centre right, led by FI and NCD, currently enjoys a slight poll lead over the PD-led centre-left alliance.

The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, whose refusal to work with the traditional parties led to a two-month post-election impasse and the formation of an unprecedented right-left coalition in April, of former comedian Beppe Grillo is the second-most popular single party behind the PD.

If Italy were to vote without a new election law there would be a similar inconclusive result to February's, polls say.

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